Fun facts: hierolglyphs
Ancient Egyptians wrote in hieroglyphs which used picture symbols to represent objects. Check out our top ten fun facts about hieroglyphs:
1. A single picture symbol could stand for a whole word, called an ‘ideogram’, or a sound, called a ‘phonogram’.
2. The Ancient Egyptians used no punctuation (like full stops, commas or question marks) and they didn’t put any spaces between their words – imaginehowharditwouldbetoreadanythingifwedidthatnow!
3. There were no vowels in Egyptian hieroglyphs only consonants, so ‘Egyptians are cool’ would be ‘Gyptns r cl’ When we ‘write’ in hieroglyphs today, we use the symbols for the closest sounds to represent the vowels.
4. There are over 700 hieroglyphic symbols in the ancient Egyptian alphabet – we only have 26 letters in our alphabet!
5. Hieroglyphs were written on tablets and temple walls, but they were also written on papyrus reed. The reeds were flattened, dried, and stuck together to make pages.
6. Most ancient Egyptians could not read or write. The scribes and priests did all the writing.
7. Egyptian hieroglyphs could be written from top to bottom, or in both directions – right to left or left to right: now that is confusing! To work out which way to read hieroglyphs, check out which way any animal or bird symbols are facing. If they are facing left, read from left to right; if they are facing right, read from right to left. Simple!
8. Sometimes scribes used a faster short form of hieroglyphic writing called ‘hieratic’.
9. The word ‘Hieroglyph’ is actually made from two Greek words: ‘hieros’ which means holy, and ‘glyphe’ which means writing. So hieroglyph means ‘holy writing’
10. The Rosetta Stone, found in 1799 by French soldiers, was the key to help work out how to read hieroglyphs. The stone was carved with the same piece of text in three different languages: Middle Egyptian hieroglyphs, Demotic and Greek. The French historian Jean-Francois Champollion successfully translated the hieroglyphs in the 1820s. It is thanks to him that we are now able to understand the many hieroglyphs that have been discovered.
Download our fun factsheet about hieroglyphs and you can learn how to write like an ancient Egyptian!